There have been several research projects which have concluded that practising the Alexander Technique is likely to lead to sustained and lasting benefits for people with ideopathic Parkinson’s Disease. The Lighten Up research project (2015) concluded that mindful movement approaches such as Alexander Technique benefit balance and mobility in people with Parkinsons by helping to improve both postural alignment and decrease rigidity. These are typical symptoms of the condition. A follow up study showed that people had maintained these benefits a full year later when researchers monitored the effects of their lessons.
Why does the Alexander Technique help so much? The Alexanderian ability to ‘pause’, or ‘take a moment’, was shown to be instrumental in helping people with Parkinson’s Disease improve their ability to carry out everyday tasks, such as getting out of a chair or car, starting walking, getting words out and coping with stress and panic. The sense of improved control in being able to tackle such symptoms was particularly welcome.
A study by Cohen, Gurfinke, Kwak, Warden and Horak (2015) Lighten up: Specific postural instructions affect axial rigidity and step initiation in patients with Parkinson’s disease suggests some benefits may even be gained through verbal instructions based on Alexander Technique principles without individual sessions. The ‘Lighten Up’ instructions relied on Alexander Technique principles of reducing excess tension while encouraging length such as:
• ‘notice you are pulling yourself down and give yourself permission to stop doing it’
• ‘let your head balance easily and let your shoulders and chest be open and light’.
The second set of instructions used in the study were called the ‘Pull Up’ instructions and relied on popular concepts of effortful posture correction. A third set of instructions focussed around relaxation were used as a control. Both sets of experimental instructions led to improved body alignment relative to the control condition. However only the Lighten Up method also improved walking and reduced sway.